Are Nurses Happy? Do They Find Their Jobs Meaningful?

Written by
Jenna Elizabeth
April 18, 2023

A career in nursing can be an exciting and emotionally rewarding experience. That’s because every single day, nurses make an impact on the lives of others by caring and advocating for their patients. What’s more, working as a nurse can offer huge benefits such as competitive compensation, dynamic work environments, and job stability. At the same time, a profession in nursing can be extremely demanding and requires an individual to have a high level of emotional tolerance and a considerable amount of resilience. That said, based on the 2018 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, most nurses reported being moderately or extremely satisfied with their jobs. However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, new research demonstrates that, nowadays, nurses experience increased levels of depression, exhaustion, and burnout.

All things considered, a nurse’s line of work is in great demand, meaning that not only is nursing a steady profession that offers good pay, but there will always be hospitals and other medical facilities looking for nurses to hire. So, whether you are currently practicing as a registered nurse, or aspire to be one, read on to discover the key to maintaining optimism and emotional well-being within the field of nursing. 

What It’s Really Like Being a Nurse

happy nurse

Most nurses love their jobs because of the difference they can make in the lives of others. In fact, you will find many nurses saying that helping people and interacting with new people is what gives them the most joy. And maybe that’s why nurses can be compassionate, even-tempered, and empathetic all at the same time. So what is it really like to be a nurse? One nurse explains, “I no longer have endless meetings all day, I am almost entirely responsible for my day without micromanagement making my life difficult, I'm not stuck behind a desk all day, I don't stare at a computer screen all day, and most of all, I actually make a difference in people's lives. I have a direct impact, and can see the results of that impact.” Aside from helping patients to heal and not being stuck behind a desk all day, a nursing salary offers stability.  Another nurse says, “I found my niche in nursing, so for now, yeah, I love it. It pays my bills and I love what I do to get paid”.

 

In general, based on the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs can expect to earn an average nurse salary of $39.78 per hour or $82,750 per year. This, of course, varies from state to state as well as by each nurse’s education level, specific certifications, and special skill sets. Therefore, for a more in-depth look at average nurse salaries, make sure you check out our Nurse Salary Guide: Understand How Much You Can Make as a Nurse. Ultimately, however, the vast majority of registered nurses enjoy a pretty good wage. 

What Nurses Are the Happiest?

From working as a registered nurse in the emergency room (ER), in labor and delivery, or in hospice, there are hundreds of nursing specialties to choose from. Depending on personality type and other factors, each person will naturally gravitate towards a nursing specialty and hopefully find their specialization meaningful. For example, if you are a person who loves children, you may find the utmost career fulfillment by working in pediatrics. One registered nurse says, “You've gotta love peds if for no other reason than you get to play peek-a-boo with toddlers and make a teen girl tell you about her boyfriend's troubles to distract from the IV. I just can't do grown-ups.” 

Or, if you are an individual who handles high-pressure situations well, you may be happiest working in the intensive care unit (ICU) or in critical care transport (CCT). This ICU registered nurse explains, “I get to the base in the ED and then leave to get super sick people and take them to where they can get better. I freaking love every second. I have a ton of autonomy and get to play in ICU and ED skills so I never get bored.” 

Additionally, working on a per diem or “as needed” basis as a nurse can offer nursing professionals the opportunity to work in a variety of medical settings and build their own schedules. This allows for a better work-life balance that can also help with happiness levels during and outside of a nursing career. Finally, there are several work-at-home jobs registered nurses can do that offer more flexibility with their scheduling. 

Self-Care for Nurses 

Are you curious to know the biggest secret to maintaining a positive outlook in your nursing career? Self-care! That’s right; a recent study showed that engaging in simple acts of pleasure, like getting outside or cuddling up with your favorite book, can increase overall happiness. Ultimately, the idea is that everyone, including nurses, should indulge in small self-care activities to stay mentally upbeat and optimistic. Self-care also means maintaining as well as forming new bonds with other people. That’s because meaningful friendships also boost happiness and can increase your sense of worth and belonging. For a list of self-care activities, take a peek at “Self Care Tips for Nurses: Taking Care of Yourself First.”

The Happy Nurse

Happy nurse with patient

Is being a nurse stressful? At times, yes. Is being a nurse worth it? Absolutely! All said and done, a career in nursing can be both exhausting and incredibly rewarding. Therefore, if you are a nurse or about to become one, you must set yourself up for success by working in a specialty that you love, as well as making sure you show up for yourself outside of work. This means that, as a nurse, you should practice self-care and build a strong support network. From there, strive for good sleep and nutrition, and don’t ever be afraid to reach out. Caring for others all day long as a nurse is a big job, and you deserve to be cared for as well!

Blog published on:
April 18, 2023

Meet Jenna, a contributing copywriter at Nursa who writes about healthcare news and updates, empathy and compassion for nurses, how to show staff appreciation and increase retention, and guides that help nurses navigate career pathways.

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